Major League Soccer released its five finalists for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP Award, headlined by a pair of former Manchester United teammates.
LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and DC United attacker Wayne Rooney are up for the award, along with LAFC’s Carlos Vela and Atlanta United teammates Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez.
Ibrahimovic might be considered the favorite had LA not failed to make the playoffs, while Atlanta may be hampered by having two players up for the honor. Vela has been outstanding on expansion LAFC despite inconsistency in his supporting cast.
Three Toronto FC players split 10 percent of the vote (Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez). The Top Eight was rounded out by Atlanta United pair Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez, and Chicago striker Nemanja Nikolic.
The German-born Gressel is the seventh-straight MLS Rookie of the Year to come from the American collegiate system, joining Jordan Morris, Cyle Larin, Tesho Akindele, Dillow Powers, Austin Berry, and CJ Sapong.
Andy Najar is the last non-collegiate ROY, winning the award after heading from DC United’s Academy directly into the First Team.
The 23-year-old Gressel came to Atlanta via the SuperDraft after a college career at Providence. The right-sided man had five goals and nine assists as a rookie, adding another goal in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Gressel received better than 53 percent of the vote, 37 points better than second-place finisher Abu Danladi of Minnesota United. Jack Elliott of Philadelphia was third, followed by San Jose’s Nick Lima.